British Columbia inches closer to a snap election, despite the pandemic state of emergency.
A person connected to Elections BC, but not authorized to comment, told theBreaker.news that district office staff from the 2017 election and 2018 proportional representation referendum have been asked if they are ready, willing and able to work at the beginning of September.
Elections BC spokesman Andrew Watson confirmed in a statement to theBreaker.news.
“We have been asking staff whether they are willing and able to work in a potential fall election, given the recent speculation about an early election call,” Watson said. “We have not signed any leases yet. We are identifying potential office space to ensure we are ready to administer a fall election if called upon to do so.”
Elections BC has been drawing up plans for a pandemic-time election, with physical distancing and personal protective equipment at polling stations and increased mail-in and phone-in options, Watson said. Prospective employees are told they cannot work from home.
“During an election district electoral office staff and election officials provide front line services to the public that cannot be completed from home,” Watson said.
On July 23, Premier John Horgan admitted that B.C. could go to the polls this fall, but he also said there is an opportunity next spring or next summer.
The NDP minority government’s term and its confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party caucus end in October 2021. But the new BC Greens leader in mid-September could trigger the end of the confidence and supply agreement that led to the formation of the Horgan government in July 2017.
The July 31 bombshell that BC Hydro’s Site C is in disarray could become a wedge issue. Despite Green opposition, the NDP decided in late 2017 to carry-on with the BC Liberal-started megaproject with a $10.7 billion budget and 2024 completion. But the completion date is now uncertain and the budget is officially “to be determined,” according to a long overdue report to the B.C. Utilities Commission that blamed the pandemic and land conditions around the Peace River.
Many signs point to a snap election for Horgan and the NDP, who are riding high on opinion poll results while the weakened BC Liberals have not found their stride under opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson, the 2018-chosen successor to ex-premier Christy Clark.
In June, the NDP held online seminars for campaign workers, including one on the topic of campaigning in a “socially distant” election. Party president Craig Keating would not rule out a fall 2020 election.
theBreaker.news reported that, between June 25 and July 16, the Government Communications and Public Engagement department ran six telephone town halls under the banner of “COVID-19 Recovery Ideas.” The NDP’s campaign pollster and data miner, Stratcom, was one of the contractors for the exercise, which showcased mostly rookie NDP MLAs in swing ridings.
On its website, the NDP recruited for regional field organizers to work with constituency associations, candidates, volunteers and election planning committees. Application deadline is Aug. 10, the day after a planned phone blitz by members.
The summer session of the Legislature is scheduled to end Aug. 14. A month later, on Sept. 14, the Green Party will announce results of the vote for a leader to succeed Andrew Weaver, who resigned to sit as an independent. One of the party’s two MLAs, house leader Sonia Furstenau, is facing 2017 Powell River-Sunshine Coast candidate Kim Darwin and lawyer Cam Brewer, a lawyer with Ratcliff and Co., the North Vancouver firm that represents the Squamish Nation.
The Cullen Commission into money laundering was supposed to begin its third phase on the day after Labour Day, but that has been delayed to the day after Thanksgiving Day because of document disclosure issues. Rather than wrapping up in December, hearings will continue until April and Commissioner Austin Cullen will not meet the original May 2021 final report deadline.
The NDP and Green alliance will have more breathing room at the end of August, when Surrey-White Rock BC Liberal MLA Tracy Redies officially resigns to become Science World’s new CEO. The former financial executive and BC Hydro director won’t complete her rookie term, leaving the BC Liberals with 41 members, tied with the NDP.
A by-election must be called within six months of vacancy.
Weaver and Speaker Darryl Plecas are both independents in the 87-seat legislature. Weaver votes with his former Green caucus-mates on confidence and supply measures.
Speaking of Plecas, RCMP federal serious and organized crime detectives are in the late stages of their investigation of Legislature corruption. Plecas and chief of staff Alan Mullen blew the whistle on Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, who were suspended and escorted out of the building in November 2018. They both claimed their innocence and demanded their jobs back. But, in 2019, they separately resigned in disgrace after more evidence of wrongdoing was revealed in separate investigations.
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